A Horrific Dilemma
In so many films these days, the use of violence is gratuitous—there to shock viewers and to sell tickets. The acclaimed French film A Prophet appears to be a notable exception. PsycCRITIQUES film reviewers Gabriel Rupp and James Atkison describe one particularly violent scene this way: "This scene, like so many in the movie, is neither a Tarantino-esque cartoon of violence nor a slick, film noir realism, but rather something hurtful, disturbing, and inevitable." What do you believe is the purpose and meaning of the violence in this film?
Rupp and Atkison explain,
[T]he film is what we call a successful failure in that it presents all too accurately the human condition in a world of uncertainty, violence, and suffocating social roles. The success is in the director's masterful choice of very human actors living out prescribed roles. The failure, we believe, is in current society itself, where underneath the surface of civilization lurks the bestial, the violent.Part of this poignant description emerges from a major plot device in the film in which the protagonist, Malik, finds himself in a situation where he must murder a fellow prisoner in order to save his own life. How is the director commenting on today's society by presenting this dilemma? Do you believe Malik had exhausted his options? What psychological mechanisms must be employed to commit such an act? How might you have handled the situation?
By Gabriel V. Rupp [and] James Atkison
PsycCRITIQUES, 2010 Vol 55(33)